It is very easy as a parent to let our children watch television so that we can get a break from entertaining our children or let them play games on the phones or tablets. There are so many screens around us that we forget that children shouldn’t be given too much screen time. Limiting screen time for children is important so that it gives them time to play. Watching excessive television has an impact on their health and well-being too.
The NHS (UK) recommends a screen time of 2 hours a day. According to the NHS website , if children over 2 years of age are allowed screen time of more than 2 hours, it affects their blood pressure which can affect their heart in later life. Children under 2 years of age should not be given any screen time at all.
Summer holidays and other holidays
Summer holidays are the most trying times for parents especially stay- at- home parents. It is very difficult to keep children entertained all the time. There will come a time when you literally “run out” of board games to play or parks to go to (if the weather holds up!) or have already overdone soft play areas. If you have got more than one child then you have to deal with non-stop sibling fights too.
Television and Computer games are a habit now
In the olden days when there were no televisions or computers, children used to entertain themselves by playing on the streets. Children were more creative at that time as they had more time on their hands. Children used to make their own kites and fly them! Now, every household has got a television, a desktop or a laptop and probably i pads and tablets and smart phones. If all the adults are using devices all the time, how do you keep children away from it?
Screen time for completing homework
Children might be required to use computer to complete their homework. For example, my daughter is required to do maths homework online, once every two weeks. Since she doesn’t ‘like’ maths much, I let her play ‘maths games’ on the computer to make her maths foundation stronger. Would this be included in the 2 hours screen time per day? I would think not as homework and maths provide her with mental stimulation.
So why do children have so much screen time?
There are a few reasons why children have so much screen time as compared to children in olden days:
- Children in olden days used to be allowed to move around freely in their locality without any fears. Parents didn’t fear anything untoward happening to their child on the streets unlike now. So in order to keep our children busy especially when the weather is not good, television/computer games seems to be the best option after all board games have been played countless number of times!
- There are so many devices per household. Parents are using devices all the time. Children always do what parents do. When they see parents using their phones or laptops, they are tempted to use them too.
- Easy availability of children’s tablets like Amazon’s Fire 7 Kids Edition Tablet and unlimited games which come with it!
- Unlimited children’s programs and channels on television. When I was child we just had 1-2 cartoon programs coming on television once or twice a week of 20 minutes each. But now we have got 20 different channels for kids. Kids have got so much variety and choice!
- Families are getting smaller- nuclear families live under one roof rather than extended families. So the responsibility of looking after children solely falls on parents. When parents need time cook or need break from entertaining their children, television or computer games is the only option whereby the kids can entertain themselves.
You cannot avoid screen time but you can reduce it
- Try not to give any screen time if your child is under 2 years. They will not know any better at that age.
- Some experts are of the opinion that touch screen devices are not good for a child’s motor skills. But some believe that there is no correlation between touchscreens and a child’s motor skills. Finally, it is the decision of the parent whether to give a tablet to the child or not and at what age. Even if you do let them use, you can always control the usage time .
- Let children watch television or use devices only at certain times of the day. Do not give them devices just before bedtime as it will affect their sleep. Do not leave any devices in their bedroom. Let children have a goodnight’s sleep without any phones beeping or lights flashing.
- If I feel the screen time of my kids on a particular day is going to exceed two hours, I try to space it out so that they do some physical activity in between these “screen sessions”.
- I do not allow kids to watch all the programs. If I feel that certain programs are not ‘good’ that is they use words I don’t like or they don’t “teach” the right things to kids then those programs are not allowed. It’s better they watch quality stuff .
Finally, it all depends on what the parents’ own belief is on screen time. However, I do notice that when I restrict the screen time for my kids, their “pretend play” gets more imaginative. Devices do not encourage imaginative or creative play. I am not in the favour of watching my children becoming zombies in front of the television. But is necessary for children to have a little exposure to tablets and limited television time for their relaxation as well as for some educational cartoons at an appropriate age.
Do you feel that children should not be given a screen time of more than 2 hours? or do you believe that in this digital age, children should be exposed to devices so that they can move with the times?
Share your opinion via the comment box below. I would be happy to hear from you!